Bryce Harper has come back down to earth following a great start to his career, hitting just .214 with a .594 OPS in his last 40 games and .171 since the All-Star break.
His overall OPS is in danger of dipping below .750 for the first time since May 19 and the 19-year-old told James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s searching for answers:
I’m all over the place right now. So I’m trying to find some mellowness at the plate and in the box. Just trying to work at it everyday and try to take something good from every at-bat and take something good from every game.
It’s certainly not surprising that a 19-year-old rookie is going through an extended slump after a strong start and even with his overall numbers declining rapidly Harper is still having a historic season for someone his age.
Among all the 19-year-olds in baseball history to log at least 300 plate appearances in a season Harper’s current .758 OPS ranks sixth-best behind Met Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle, Cesar Cedeno, and Freddie Lindstrom. And directly in front of Edgar Renteria, Ty Cobb, and Ken Griffey Jr.
The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.
Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.
Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.